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Friday, January 29, 2021

Liminal Gods - Deeper Theology

 I've written before about the liminal Gods of the Fairy Witchcraft I practice, including the seasonal pairings of the Lady of the Greenwood and Lord of the Wildwood and Queen of the Wind and Hunter as well as the sisters Thallae and Thessilae, the Lord of Mischief, and the Queen of Apples; in my books I've also touched on several others relating to the ocean and storms. The thing about these deities is that there is no set pantheon of mythology, they are fluid beings and every single human will interact with different ones or combinations of them. This is a system that is meant to be experiential and personal, not rigidly structured and also one that is highly dependent on who a particular witch connects to or who connects to them. I do realize that this approach is foreign to many people who are used to having pantheons handed to them, so I wanted to expand a bit here on the variety that can be found and also why I chose to make the seasonal pairings the most prominent initially and how this doesn't reflect an inherent heteronormativity (although I understand why it seems that way).


The key descriptors of a liminal god is that they are not a named god from a pantheon (that they'll admit anyway); go by titles instead of names; are intrinsically connected to the Otherworld; are viewed or treated as monarchy or similar there; and can profoundly effect a witch's life. They may be extremely regionally specific or more universal, may be shared with other fairy witches or personal to an individual witch. Of course I will add here that a fairy witch can also connect to or be dedicated to a named deity; there's no rule that says it must be a liminal god only a deity that is strongly connected to the Otherworld. 

When I wrote my first book on Fairy Witchcraft back in 2014 I felt strongly that it was important to offer a way for people to begin connecting in to this energy and world. The easiest way to do this is to start honouring the most universal and open of the liminal gods, which are the two seasonal pairs. Think of them in a way as the gateway gods to fairy witchcraft. They are two couples, a queen with a king, who each rule over six months of the year respectively, and over two seasonal fairy courts. I suspect these seasonal courts reflect something of a cultural paradigm that these beings have embraced, but that's speculative on my part. They certainly embody many paradigms of older folklore and belief as well as some modern aspects, and are probably because of that, the most approachable of the liminal gods. They are also the easiest for people coming from or into neopaganism to relate to and connect with as they follow and embrace the procession of seasons and earth based seasonal holydays that are popular. Again creating an easy gateway or bridge for people new to the path. 

The two sisters are another pairing, although they are neither a couple in the sexual sense (obviously) nor a ruling pair. They do however embody balancing forces of healing and death and perhaps embody deeper mysteries. Because they are forces of mortality, whether through health, illness, or death, they are also relatable to many humans and therefore easier for witches to begin connecting to. And they can offer a useful place for people to look to in dire circumstances that won't by necessity mean making a bargain with more dangerous powers. 

The Lord of Mischief appears alone, and is a fluid being. As I describe in the initial blog about him, he is a spirit of fun, high spiritedness, and trouble, as well as travel. He is also a patron of sorts to lovers - one of his other titles (punnily enough) being Knight of Love - and that applies to any and all lovers and all types of love. He is not part of a pair of any kind but is probably the most actively fluid, in every sense, of the liminal gods I've previously discussed. If its fun, feels good, and makes people happy its his purview. He is one of the more intensely Fae and Fey of the liminal gods I've discussed and definitely not for everyone. 

The Queen of Apples* is discussed in my work with she/her pronouns because I tend to see her as a girl (literally of about 14 or 15) but as I stated when I first wrote about her I strongly feel that is not a set gender but an appearance; she tends to be androgynous to me and also asexual. She is the patron of brothels and by extension of all sex workers. If it seems enormously contradictory to have a being that appears as a teenage girl with androgynous/asexual energy as the patron of sex work I'd agree but that's a very Fairy contradiction. She is also a deity of protection, healing, revelry and madness. The Queen of Apples was the first liminal god that came from shared gnosis and she, like the seasonal pairs, seems to be a great deity for people to begin with or focus on. 

These are brief descriptions of the main liminal gods that have been discussed publicly over the last 7 years. Now I started this by saying that liminal gods can be personal and unique and that is a basic premise of my style of fairy witchcraft. The ones discussed here represent the public aspects, the ones that are open to anyone with an interest in this type of witchcraft. There are also however many others that people could potentially find themselves meeting. The fairy queen I owe allegiance to, for example, is not one of these. And when it comes to who a witch might encounter there really are no set patterns or limits - it doesn't have to be a queen/king pair, nor an androgynous queen ruling alone. I suspect there are long and complex reasons why we do find these cross-gender pairings most often and why the Queen is usually the more powerful force. The seasonal pairs do present as heteronormative but that's for some complex reasons rooted in human expectation, mirroring the natural world in specific ways, and feeding on a lot of established folklore that empowers them. The rest....have different paradigms not based in pulling power from human belief in the same way. That's a complex topic to dig into but suffice to say here that the Good Folk are known to both mimic human culture as well as reflect inverse human norms**, and also have a deep history of behaving in ways humans find morally perverse and of embracing humans who are themselves outside what is considered typical for gender and sex. With that all in mind you may find yourself connecting to a same sex pairing, a polyamorous grouping^, an individual or any combination thereof. You may find the liminal deity you connect to is androgynous or overtly sexual, who are chaste or orgiastic. You may find liminal gods who are themselves fluid in how they present both their gender and sexuality. These are powers that are ancient and outside momentary human social norms and so cannot be easily pigeon holed into any one perspective or expectation. But if you are most comfortable with a heterosexual pairing then that is certainly an option.

The ultimate message here is that fairy witchcraft is a path that not only accepts but embraces the full spectrum of LGBTQ+ and consensual relationship formats because that range is what we find among the beings we are honouring and connecting to. When we dive deeper into theology around the liminal gods we will inevitably uncover contradictions and contrasts which rather than dilute these beings reflect their complexity. We also find that every human has their own experiences in part because of the way these beings choose to interact with them, usually through a lens unique to that human. 
They do not lie but they will give a person what that person expects or needs at a particular time to move a situation forward. And perhaps more importantly in fairy witchcraft without the rigid structure of set pantheons each witch connects to the liminal god or other deity that they most resonate with personally or who feels most drawn to or by that person. 


*I actually have some intense UPG here and believe there is a liminal god by this name but also a Higher Power of the Other by teh same title, for whom this liminal God is a facet. 
** see my article on gender among the Good Folk for more on this
^ I would have to do an entire separate post on polyamory or open relationships in the context of fairies but I don't want this to go too long


Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Book Review: Lugh Lleu A Collection of Poems and Tales

 I haven't done a book review in a little bit so let's jump into one today for Kris Hughes 'Lugh Lleu A Collection of Poems and Tales' published in 2020. This is a short book and features 5 poems and 4 stories as well as an introduction. The introduction lays out the author's intent with the book which is to explore the areas of crossover between the Irish deity Lugh and the Welsh god Lleu through retelling older folk tales and myths and through poetry. 

The author achieves the stated premise throughout the text, blurring the boundaries between the two deities and dancing back and forth between one set of myths and another. This is perhaps most evident in the poem 'Lugh Lleu' where each verse shifts from one deity to another, giving us a verse about Lugh followed by one about Lleu and so on. Others such as 'Alpha' are less easily parsed and may perhaps apply to both deities without explicitly being aimed at either. 

The re-tellings of the stories are based on older myths and folktales, which the author discusses at the end of the text in the 'Notes' section. All of the original sources are cited there and there is a small commentary on that particular story and the author's approach to it, from direct retellings of tales, such as in 'Gwydion' to stories like 'Balor' which are much more creative and blend both multiple older versions with the author's imagination. As with the poems the tales encompass both Lugh and Lleu.

This book would probably not work well for hard polytheists or those who see a strong separation between Lugh and Lleu, but for those who see a fuzzier demarcation between the Welsh and Irish Gods or who enjoy contemplating the possibilities there this provides interesting food for contemplation. With its mix of poetry, retelling,s and creative reimaginings of tales 'Llugh Lleu A Collection of Poems and Tales' has a little bit of everything. Copies can be found here 

Monday, January 25, 2021

7 Facts Everyone Should Know About Fairies

The subject of fairies is a complex one and with the amount of good, bad, and ridiculous material floating around online there's a lot of confusion. Here are seven basic things about the subject that everyone should know:
  1. The Word Fairy Is A Catchall Term - Although we use fairy as if it were specific the word is and has always been a generic term applied to a range of beings. Its history goes back 700 years in English and it was used interchangeably with elf, goblin, imp, and incubus for most of its history; the oldest meaning of fairy related to the place and later as an adjective for beings from or with the nature of that place. There are seem groups who use fairy now to indicate a specific type of being, what Paracelsus would have called Sylphs, but across the breadth of folklore and academia the word is still used as a catch all. This is important to know because when you see an older account talking about a fairy encounter, or a journal article talking about fairies, or the word fairy used to translate a term like the Korean yojeong it is inevitably being used in the wider generic sense, not for a small sprite. 

  2. The Unseelie and Seelie Courts Are Uniquely Scottish - Appearing in urban fantasy of the late 20th century as a ubiquitous division of all fairies into a sort of 'good' and 'bad' grouping, the idea of the Seelie and Unseelie courts comes from Scottish folklore specifically. As much as its popular today - and sometimes convenient - to divide all fairy beings by these arbitrary lines in folklore we do not find the concepts outside of the areas they originated in, that is the southern areas of Scotland specifically. The words themselves come from Scots and have a long and interesting history as applied to fairies, which goes far beyond a simple good/bad dichotomy. This is important to know for two reasons: firstly because the terms apply, really, only to Scottish folklore and not elsewhere, and secondly following that because when you see them being applied elsewhere - for example a book or article talking about Irish fairy beings or monarchs being in one court or another, or claiming English fairy monarchs rule either court - its a red flag that what you are reading is fiction not folklore. 

  3. Fairies Have Their Own Rules - One thing that is clearly established across every and all stories we have of the Good Folk is that they do not adhere to human ethics or rules but operate on their own system of both. Many of these seem to contradict human expectations, such as the prohibition we find in some folklore not to say thank you or not to acknowledge seeing the Good Folk. These rules are not homogenous and will vary by specific group of Otherworldly beings and by the wider culture they are associated with, but in general it can be said that fairy etiquette will always be different from and often at odds with human norms. There is often a double standard that seems to exist as well across fairy folklore where the ways that humans are treated and the ways that humans are expected to act are not the same rules applied to fairies themselves. Humans often find these beings cruel or capricious at least in part because of this difference in behaviour and expectation, which we may perhaps describe as 'cultural differences'. This fact is important to know because it helps put the wider folklore in context and provides a basis for interactions.  

  4. Cultural Lenses Make a Huge Difference - Despite the way that the word is used generically what we would call fairies in various cultures are often very different and those differences matter. Just as knowing that the seelie and unseelie are uniquely Scottish concepts we find that many details of fairylore are particular to specific cultures or locations. If we say that fairy is an umbrella term under which, for example, would fall  beings like the Tylwyth Teg (Welsh), Daoine Sith (Scottish), and Daoine Uaisle (Irish) then we must expect there will be differences in how each group is described, understood, and interacted with in the stories we have. The Irish Daoine Uaisle are not English fairies nor are they the Welsh Tylwyth Teg, and we have to be aware of that and cautious about over homogenizing everything. While there are cross cultural similarities we must be careful not to assume from a few similar details that the entirety is the same. A good example of this would be the Cú Sidhe (Irish fairy hound), Cú Sithe (Scottish Fairy Hound), and Cwn Annwn (Welsh fairy hound), all of which broadly fit a wider category of 'fairy hound' but which each have different descriptions, behaviours, and stories. This is important to know in the same way its important to know that when you visit a different country things won't be the same as they are where you live - cultural nuances matter and help us understand stories in different ways. 

  5. A Lot Of Our Ideas About Fairies Today Come From Media Not Folklore - The popular image of a fairy - winged, pointy eared, tiny - although working its way into folklore comes from somewhere else. In fact up until the last few decades anecdotal accounts describe very, very different beings than what we find in popular stories today. Wings came into vogue through fiction via art via the theater, probably (according to Dr Simon Young) rooted originally in Paracelsus's writings on sylphs. Pointed ears followed a similar route coming to the popular imagination from fiction via art, based in a comparison to fairies with wild animals and Greek Satyrs. Tiny fairies are found in some folklore, but as one among many possible fairy sizes, however during the Victorian era the idea of fairies et al as tiny and childlike came into vogue. These all combined in various ways across art and fiction over the last hundred years and are now found in modern anecdotal accounts. This is important to know because when reading older accounts or modern accounts from places with extant fairylore generally the beings described have none of these features and it helps to know that so you can envision them correctly. 

  6. Fairies As Nature Spirits Are a New Idea - While the idea of fairies as nature spirits has become very popular its actually a fairly new idea, rooted in the late 19th century. Theosophy, beginning in the late 19th century, looked to the views of Paracelsus about elemental spirits and blended them with the Victorian romanticism of nature to give us the fairy as embodiment of and protector of the natural world. It is true if we look to Greek or Roman cultures that we can find beings like dryads and naiads who are spirits of specific natural features, but I would argue that the classical understanding of these beings is not the same as the modern concept of a nature spirit. In any event the Celtic language speaking cultures specifically do not seem to have any equivalent concept, with their Otherworldly spirits being territorial of specific places or things (wells, tress, rocks) but not as aspects or spirits literally of those things; in fact we have multiple stories across Ireland, Scotland, and England of the fairies moving their homes or leaving a place in a way that a nature spirit by definition could not do. This is important, not to dissuade people who choose to believe in nature spirits as fairies, but so that everyone can have a wider context for these beings that is open to multiple options and aware of the history of specific beliefs. 

  7. They Aren't Evil - But They Aren't Good Either - There are two popular views of fairies that float around the internet: 1. They are extremely dangerous and must be avoided at all cost; 2. they are benevolent spirit guides that exist to aid humans. The truth is both and neither, as usual with this subject. We have a lot of folklore and anecdotal accounts of fairies causing harm to humans, sometimes as retribution sometimes because they wanted to. And by harm I mean blinding humans, giving them painful long term illnesses, driving them mad, or straight up murdering them. To be clear. On the other hand we also have lots of folklore and anecdotal accounts of fairies acting benevolently, healing humans, giving them luck or money, providing essential blessings. Are they evil? No. Are they good? Also no. They are diverse and from a human perspective (see fact 3) often mercurial and unpredictable. I know some people reading this are now saying to themselves that they have interacted with fairies for a long time and only ever had good experiences. I am not denying that that can be true, dependent on what exactly you are interacting with, but there are also people who have the opposite experience and their accounts are just as valid. Or put another way one person's good experiences don't negate someone else's bad experiences and vice versa - there's a lot of nuance here. I have been doing this, myself, for decades and have seen both sides of it; I've seen and received healing for example and I've also been temporarily blinded and sickened. The takeaway here is that these beings aren't simple and they are never clearly one thing or another. Its vital to remember that, like humans, you have a huge range of possibilities for outcomes of dealing with these beings and its generally wise not to assume either all good or all bad intentions. 







Thursday, January 21, 2021

Keeping the Word Fae Meaningful

 I'm about to say something very unpopular here. The current trend to refer to absolutely anything cute, odd, unusual, or beautiful as 'fae' is actively encouraging the disenchantment and disempowerment of the concept of fairies and the Otherworld. It also often leans into ableism, objectification, and exoticism

Not a fairy but a deer at the Seneca Army Depot in New York. Photo © blmiers2 / Flickr Creative Commons license. The deer at this particular location are often white

So let's break this down a bit. 

The trend itself is enormously wide ranging and encompasses everything from people and animals with albinism to unusual crystals, foods that look like natural objects or natural objects that look like food, unusual animals/people/plants/etc.,, any odd or generous behaviour by humans or animals, places that are especially beautiful, even bizarre jewelry. Any and all of these things may be labeled 'fae' and shared with comments speculating their inhuman nature or source, even when the source is known and blatantly human

Now there is some long history to labelling things Otherworldly as a sign of praise or because of a concern that they actually are. Alaric Hall in his book 'Elves in Anglo-Saxon England' discuses the use of the term aelfscyne [lit. 'elf beautiful'] as a description for very attractive humans going back a thousand years. There has also been a history of referring to things and people as connected to the Good Folk in Celtic language speaking cultures, often with an attached assumption of both attractiveness and danger; people have been killed or pushed out of communities for this*.  The key difference in the first case is that the term was used as a comparative, rather like saying 'she's an angel' today, with an understanding that it wasn't meant literally; in the second case the implied association was stronger and could result in harm to the human in question. 

In the current trend I have seen people claim everything from images of especially beautiful animal breeds, like the Akhal Teke, to a professor ranting about mushrooms, as examples of something fae. Do people actually believe that a breed of horse is fae? That a man lecturing about mushrooms is fae? That the range of people, animals, plants, crystals, and objects the word gets applied to are Otherworldly? I don't think so based on the way the concept is being treated, although it is used with a mock seriousness. So why then do I care so much about this?

For one thing I see this watering down of the term to apply to anything and everything as a continuation of a long process of disempowering the Good Folk. It goes back hundreds of years, tied to shifting euphemisms for these beings to things like 'wee folk' and 'little people' which emphasized their reduced power and stature - literally minimizing beings once seen as human sized and godlike into small beings of limited influence. Words have power and using such disempowering terms shapes how people understand these beings. In the same way applying the term fae to such a huge range of things renders the term just another vague compliment like 'pretty' and removes its actual power.

Now the above argument may seem a bit rigid, especially as language does change and evolve with time and use. There are other layers to this as well though and they deserve consideration. Labelling humans with albinism or with heterochromatic eyes, for example, as fae can be offensive to the person in question - in fact I have seen people several times ask not to be othered this way. Implying humans with a medical condition aren't actually human has a long and dangerous history that has and still is getting people killed. There's a degree of ableism in the idea that people who are medically different, and therefore not 'normal', are not in fact human. The same applies to animals in my opinion. 

 This application of fae to everything also often serves to objectify the subject - from a person, animal, object, or place into something that is not of this world and therefore open to being taken and entirely reimagined. A simple exchange with a nice person in line at a coffee shop becomes fodder for a 'fae' narrative that allows the teller to centre themselves against a magical backdrop and become the main character in a living urban fantasy**. Its dehumanizing literally and figuratively. 

There is also a concerning level of exoticism that is going on with much of this that I think needs to be considered. Labelling a foreign breed of horse like the aforementioned Akhal Teke as fae is literally turning an animal from a foreign country into something Otherworldly. This is just a new iteration of the old an inappropriate obsession that western cultures have long had with anything and everything outside themselves, manifested historically through orientalism and the 'noble savage' trope. Just because a person, animal, or place seems fantastic or exotic to you doesn't make it Otherworldly and there needs to be some serious consideration about the inappropriateness of forwarding such ideas in the 21st century, no matter how much fun people feel the idea of fae is. 

When absolutely anything and everything becomes 'fae' then the word and concept are rendered effectively meaningless. Worse the word is being used to forward things like ableism, objectification, and exoticism that we should be actively fighting against. And  ultimately rather than making us more aware of what is Otherworldly around us this over use of the term makes us instead unable to discern any of it. 

So perhaps give some thought to who and what is labeled as fae^ going forward.


*an example being Bridget Cleary, a woman who was accused of being a changeling and murdered by her family
** to be clear I do think humans still have modern day encounters with fairy beings, including in coffee shops, but the vast majority of the stories I see under the label fae are easily explained and clearly entirely human in nature
^ self labelling being a separate issue not being discussed here. Call yourself fae if you want to; its labelling others that way that's problematic. 

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Complete List of My Published Work

 I am occasionally asked about this so I thought it would be easiest to simply post a list here of all of my published and forthcoming work.



Articles

“Healing Ritual for the Ocean Waters”, Circle Magazine issue 109 summer 2011

“A Gaelic View of Samhain”, Celtic Guide, vol. 1 issue 10 Oct. 2012

 “Celebrating Imbolc with the Family”, Air n-Aithesc, vol.1 issue 1, Feb. 2014

 “The Witch, the Bean Feasa, and the Fairy Doctor in Irish Culture”. Air n-Aithesc, vol. 1 issue 2, Aug. 2014

 “Finding the Morrigan”, Goddess Pages, issues 26 winter 2014/spring 2015

 “The Morrigan’s Call”, Pagan Dawn, no. 194 Imbolc/Spring Equinox 2015

  “A Family Bealtaine”; “The Good Neighbors”, Air n-Aithesc, vol. II, issue I, Feb. 2015

  “The Morrigan and Sovereignty” Goddess Alive e-zine Spring/Summer 2015

 “Finding Flidais, Irish Goddess of Cattle and Deer”, Oak Leaves, Summer 2015, Issue 69

  “The Role of the Morrigan in the Cath Maige Tuired: Incitement, Battle Magic, and Prophecy”, Air n-Aithesc, vol. II, issue II, August 2015

  “Three Paths, One Purpose”. Call of the Morrigan, Oct 2015

  “Samhain: Myth, Mystery, and Meaning”, Pagan Dawn, no. 197 Samhain/Yule 2015

“Crom Cruach”; “Reconstructing Iron Age Ritual Feasting Practices”, Air n-Aithesc, vol. III, issue 1, February 2016

“Experiential Spirituality” Mystic Living Today ezine, April 2016

“Fairy Witchcraft Master class”, Spirit & Destiny, July 2016

“Enchantment in the Modern World”, Mystic Living Today ezine July 2016

“The Cailleach”; “Two Views of the Leannan Si”, Air n-Aithesc, vol III, issue II, August 2016

“Medb”, Air n-Aithesc, vol IV, issue I, 2017

“Scottish Fairies and the Teind to Hell”, Pagan Dawn, Spring 2017

“Fairy Witchcraft: Old Ways in New Days” Watson’s Mind Body Spirit Magazine, Spring 2017

“Tailtiu”; “Samhain; Tradition and Transition”, Air nAithesc, vol IV issue II, 2017

“The Fire Festivals in History and Myth”; “Cermait”, Air nAithesc, vol V 2018

“Fairies, Word and Deed” Watson’s Mind Body Spirit Magazine, Autumn 2018

“Seeking in the Mists: The Gods and Goddesses of Ireland” Pagan Dawn, Beltane 2019 no 211

“Fairy Queens and Witches” Pagan Dawn, Lammas 2019 no 212

“Queens of Fairy” The Magical Times, Oct 2019 – March 2020, issue 27

“Conceptualizing Fairyland” Pagan Dawn, Imbolc 2020 no 214

“The Divinity of the Tuatha De Danann”, Pagan Digest volume 01, May 2020

“The Power of Transformation”, Witch Way Magazine, Midsummer special issue 2020

“Fairies and the Stars”, Pagan Dawn, Lammas-Autumn Equinox 2020, no 216

“Sexuality and Gender Among the Good Neighbours: the Intersection and Inversion of Human Norms in Fairylore”, written for Revenant Journal 2020, cut, posted on academia.edu; FIS newsletter 2021

“The White Elephant in the Room: Racism and Diversity in Fairy Belief”, Witches & Pagans Magazine, forthcoming

 

Academic Papers

“Evolution of the Fairy Courts: from Scottish Ballads to Urban Fantasy”

Ohio State University Fairies and the Fantastic Conference, 2019

“Álfar, Aelfe, and Elben: Elves in an historic and modern Heathen context”

3rd Annual Heathen Women United Conference, 2019


 Poetry (in magazines)

 “Shining God”, Idunna 76 Summer 2008

“Five” Circle Magazine issue 107 2010

“Consumed” Witches & Pagans issue 24

“Hammer” Circle Magazine issue 115 vol. 35 #4

 

Anthologies

“Essense” (under the pen name Seabhacgeal) The Pagan’s Muse, 2003

“Secrets”; “Alone”; “First”; “After the Drought”; “Forgiveness”, Voices of Survivors 2009

“Oíche Shamna”, Pagan Writers Presents Samhain 2011

“Snowflakes”; “Midwinter Solstice Dream”, Pagan Writers Presents Yule, 2011

 “Connecting Past and Future: Modern Reconstructionist Druidism”, Essays in Contemporary Paganism 2013

“Past & Present”, Paganism 101, 2014

“Macha: One face of the Morrigan”, By Blood, Bone, and Blade: a tribute to the Morrigan, 2014

“Ancient Goddesses in the Modern World”; “Frigga”, Naming the Goddess, 2014

“Macha, Horses, and Sovereignty”, Grey Mare on the Hill, 2015

“Ancient Roots, Modern Faith“ Pagan Planet: Being, Believing & Belonging in the 21Century 2016

“Guidise ocus Comairc” An Leabhar Urnaí 2016

“Macha’s Race”, The Dark Ones: Tales and Poems of the Shadowed Gods 2016

“Goddesses of Ireland: Beyond the Ninth Wave” Goddess in America 2016

“Pagan Parenting in the 21st Century”; “The Morrigans: Ancient Goddesses in Modern Times”; “Taking the Road Less Traveled By”, iPagan, 2017

 “The Goddess Hidden in Folklore”; Seven Ages of the Goddess, 2018

“Interview with Morgan Daimler” Real Witches of New England 2018

“King of the Sidhe of Ireland: The Dagda's Role in the Aislinge Oenguso”; “An Analysis of the Dagda's Role in the De Gabail in t-Sida”; “How the Dagda Got His Magic Staff: The Power and Symbolism of the Dagda’s Club”, Harp, Club and Cauldron: a curated anthology of scholarship, lore, practice and creative writings on the Dagda 2018

‘The Morrigan’; ‘Brighid’ Celtic Goddesses 2018

‘What is Modern Witchcraft?’ Pagan Portals What is Modern Witchcraft anthology 2019

“Finnbheara”; “Nuada” Naming the God forthcoming


 Short Stories

Chess: A Between the Worlds short story - 2017

Birth: A Between the Worlds short story - 2018

The Well at Carterhaugh: A queer retelling of Tam Lin – 2019

The King of Elfland: a queer retelling of Thomas the Rhymer - 2021


Books

Selected Charms from the Carmina Gadelica, 2011

Selected Prayers from Volume 1 of the Carmina Gadelica, 2011

By Land, Sea, and Sky, 2011

Shadow, Light, and Spirit, 2012

A Child’s Eye View of the Fairy Faith, 2012

Where the Hawthorn Grows 2013

Murder Between the Worlds: A Between the Worlds novel, 2014

Pagan Portals: Fairy Witchcraft, 2014

Lost in Mist and Shadow; a Between the Worlds novel, 2014

Pagan Portals: the Morrigan, 2014

Into the Twilight; a Between the Worlds novel 2015

The Treasure of the Tuatha De Danann: a dual language pocket book, 2015

Pagan Portals: Irish Paganism; reconstructing Irish Polytheism, 2015

Heart of Thorns; a Between the Worlds novel 2016

Pagan Portals: Brigid, 2016

Fairycraft 2016

Tales of the Tuatha Dé Danann: a dual language pocket book, 2016

Fairy Gifts: A Between the Worlds anthology; 2016

Pagan Portals: Gods and Goddesses of Ireland 2016

Dark of Winter: A Between the Worlds novel 2017

Fairies: A Guidebook to the Celtic Fair Folk; 2017

Pagan Portals: Odin, 2018

Desire and Ashes a Between the Worlds novel 2018

Travelling the Fairy Path 2018

Pagan Portals: the Dagda 2018

Pagan Portals Manánnan mac Lir 2019

Pagan Portals Fairy Queens 2019

Myth and Magic of Pagan Ireland: a dual language pocket book, 2019

A New Dictionary of Fairies 2020

Pagan Portals Thor 2020

Wandering: A Between the Worlds Anthology 2020

Pagan Portals Raven Goddess 2020

Cath Maige Tuired 2020

Pagan Portals Living Fairy 2020

Convergence a Between the Worlds Novel 2020

Pagan Portals Lugh 2021

Fairy: the Otherworld by Many Names forthcoming

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Sunday, January 10, 2021

Thorns - a poem about fairies

My yard is all over thorns,
raspberry, rose, hawthorn,
sweet white flowers in spring
bright red berries in autumn
but spring or autumn,
full green or bare brown,
the thorns remain constant.
Don't be fooled by the
fair flowers, soft petalled, 
or the round, ripe berries
juicy and tart on the lips;
these are temptations
luring the unwary and the bold.
One misstep, one stumble
one hand grasping too far
or too ambitiously
and those thorns will cut,
impale defenseless flesh
slice exposed skin, merciless.
They will claim blood as
their due for what you take.
They will remind you
whose domain this really is.
People seek the flowers,
people crave the berries...
but they forget the thorns.
The thorns though, they
never forget their nature
no matter how many 
bouquets or berries hide them.

- Morgan Daimler, copyright January 2021




Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Hilda: Blending Folklore and Fiction

 One of my seven year old son's favorite shows is Hilda on Netflix, so its safe to say I've seen all the episodes of both seasons repeatedly. Its a fun show with a great premise and lively characters. Based on a comic the animated show follows the adventures of the eponymous heroine, a young girl raised in the wilderness who moves to the city of Trolberg, and tangentially her friends. The show blends some tidbits of actual folklore, modified, with creative adaptations to give the audience a brand new product. It is a fun story that sweeps the viewer along as the headstrong Hilda, who has a talent for dealing with Otherworldly beings, adapts to a move from the wilderness to the city which it turns out has just as much supernatural going on as her mountain home did. 

Folklore

There is some actual folklore in Hilda, although rarely without distortion for plot purposes. In the first season we are introduced for example to elves, giants, trolls, mara, nisse, barghest, and a lindworm - all of which are real beings in folklore. However all of these are depicted with important differences in Hilda from what we would find in the original folklore which is important to keep in mind. The elves of Hilda are extremely small, only a few inches tall, and effectively powerless (lacking magic); this is at odds with elves in wider folklore, even the places where they are described as small they are seen as powerful magically and able to protect themselves. The mara in Hilda are mean teenage girls who cause nightmares in contrast to the folkloric maran who are night hags that cause sleep paralysis, night terrors, and sometimes death. What this basically means is that any of the actual folklore found in Hilda should be viewed as a starting point not a primer. 

Fiction

 A lot of of what we find in Hilda is pure imagination, which is really fun. Examples of creatures in Hilda that are purely fiction as far as I know would be the Woffs, the Great Raven, Nittens, the Wood Man, and the depictions of giants, as well as Hilda's pet a 'deer-fox' named Twig. These beings help flesh out Hilda's world which is a place that is wild and enspirited and create a show that is fun and interesting for children and adults. The fiction tends to play off of and be rooted in the folklore, creating what may be called a folklorique result, something that isn't folklore but contains themes of it and reflects some older ideas. 

Some Good Pagan Bits

There are some very good pagan and animist aspects to Hilda:

  •  Weather is controlled by elemental spirits that live in the clouds; when they argue they create storms. 
  • there are several episodes centred on the lesson of human hubris relating to non-human spirits. One example from season one is the way the Meteorologist caused a terrible storm as a consequences of trapping a spirit. Another would be Hilda's own creation of the Tide Mice.
  • the show does a good job of teaching that there are many other spirits in the world and that they have agency and personality, even the clouds, which is great
  • shows that spirits are found in all places, wild and urban

Some Concerning Bits

 I do see people unreservedly recommending the show, and I have to admit I do have some reservations myself. I love the show and so does my son, but I also know where the line is in the material between the older folklore and creative license. I have a bit of concern that much like what I've seen with fairies in urban fantasy novels people will take the material from Hilda an incorporate it directly into their spiritual beliefs without any further research and that would be unfortunate.

Another aspect that I feel must be addressed by anyone practicing witchcraft who is going to look at this show as a template for belief, is that it is unashamedly a kids show, wherein the threats are minimal, the consequences always manageable, and the most dangerous of supernatural situations within the range of what a child can handle. It makes for great kid's tv, but in a spiritual context leans into the anthropocentricism that already plagues modern witchcraft as well as contributing to the idea that humans can handle any Otherworldly threat that comes there way with relative ease. Even the trolls which are placed as the greatest threat in Hilda's world never actually hurt anyone and are far more noise and bluster than danger.

My Overall Thoughts

Ultimately I like the show and enjoy watching it, but I do find myself using some points in different episodes to discuss actual folklore and beliefs with my kids. The episode with the Mâran is a good example of that, where the show's depiction veers widely away from the folklore while still using the folkloric terms, an opportunity I took to discuss actual Mâran lore with my children. I think that anyone who watches it and is tempted to include ideas from it in their spiritual beliefs should see it not as a manual of belief but as a springboard for further research - and be prepared for the actual folklore to be different in tone and content than the show. As much fun as Hilda's elf friends are they are very much at odds with the elves found in Icelandic folklore.